Drink and driving, or drunk driving, is a serious offence which can result in a person being imprisoned for twelve months as a standard. According to the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 4(1), it is an offence to drive or attempt to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle when unfit to so, due to the influence of drink. Section 4 states that a “person who, when driving or attempting to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink is guilty of an offence.” This offence is triable and can result in a person being imprisoned, receiving a ban from driving and face paying a fine if a person is found guilty of drink driving. An individual may be able to reduce their driving ban by taking a drink-drive rehabilitation scheme course (a DDRS) if they have been banned from driving for twelve months or more. However, this is left to the court to offer this to the accused if they are found to be guilty of the offence.
If a person is charged with being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal drink limit or unfit to drive under the influence of drink, the possible penalties include three months of imprisonment, up to £2,500 fine and a possible driving ban. If a person is charged with driving or attempting to drive while above the legal drink limit or unfit because of drink, the possible penalties include six months of imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a driving ban for at least one year, but this can be increased to three years if the accused has been convicted for drink driving twice in ten years.
If a person is found guilty of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink, the person might be penalised with fourteen years of imprisonment, an unlimited fine, a ban from for at least two years, an extended driving test before the person’s licence is returned and the person won’t automatically get his or her licence back if they are a high-risk offender. If a person is convicted for drink driving, their car insurance costs will increase dramatically, if the person drives for work their employer will be able to see the conviction on the person’s licence and there may be problems with travelling to certain countries, such as the USA.
Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof way of drinking alcohol and ensuring that you are below the legal drinking limit. The amount of alcohol an individual would need to drink to be considered over the legal drinking limit varies from person to person. How alcohol affects a person is dependent on the individual’s weight, age, sex, metabolism, the type and amount of alcohol that the individual has drunk, what the individual has eaten and the individual’s stress levels at the time. Even small quantities of alcohol can affect an individual’s ability to drive so the only sound advice that can be given is to avoid any consumption of alcohol if you are driving.
Although the police can use their powers to stop vehicles at random times, the law in England and Wales does not permit entirely random testing of drivers for drink. The courts have accepted that the police are empowered to stop vehicles at random, under the Road Traffic Act 1988, but this does not empower the police officer to conduct random preliminary tests. This means that the police can stop a car randomly but are not allowed to do tests unless they have any suspicions that the driver is over the limit. Therefore, some drivers are initially stopped by a police car because they have a fault with the car, for example a broken brake light, and are then charged for drink driving despite the drink not obviously impairing their driving abilities.
Drivers should be aware of the procedure of testing whether a person is over the legal drink limit. If a driver is pulled over by a police officer and they suspect that the driver is over the legal drink limit, they will ask the driver to provide a specimen to analyse. This is usually a specimen of breath for a roadside breathalyser test. If a driver refuses to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis, this counts as an offence. In section 7a of the Road Traffic Act of 1988, it is also stated that it is legal for a constable to make a request for a medical practitioner to take a specimen of blood from the person concerned. If a driver refuses to provide a specimen, this could result in the driver getting six months of imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a ban from driving for at least one year. This is why no matter what circumstances the driver is in, they should always provide a specimen and comply with the police or any medical practitioners that the police may request.
The maximum legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for driving in England and Wales is eighty milligrams of alcohol for every one hundred millilitres of blood in a person’s body, thirty-five micrograms of alcohol for every one hundred millilitres of breath. Finally, the legal drink limit for urine is one hundred and seven milligrams of alcohol for every one hundred millilitres of urine. However, the maximum legal BAC limit in Scotland is lower, being fifty milligrams of alcohol in every one hundred millilitres of blood, twenty-two micrograms in every one hundred millilitres of breath and sixty-seven milligrams in every one hundred millilitres of urine. This was changed in December 2014 because the Scottish government argued that the changes they made were to bring Scotland in line with most other European countries to save lives and make Scotland’s roads safer.
One way to avoid a drink driving ban is to dispute and defend against the allegation with one of our motoring offence driving solicitors. Unless a defendant can prove that mitigating circumstances caused the defendant to be drink driving a mechanically propelled vehicle whilst over the legal drink limit, the defendant will be found guilty of this allegation. With the help of Driving Solicitors, you can get the legal advice and help that you need to avoid drink driving offences. There are different possible defences for drink driving allegations, such as proving that the defendant was not driving at the time of the alleged offence, that the defendant was not driving on a public road or in a public place. Another possible defence could also be that the alcohol that took the defendant over the legal limit was consumed after they had stopped driving, also known as the hip flask defence. The final possible defence could be denying that the defendant was over the legal drink limit. In other words, the defence could suggest that the police evidence was unreliable for some reason, for example that the roadside breathalyser and the analyser at the police station had not been calibrated for a while and therefore was inaccurate.
A good example of a defence being used against this allegation is the case of CPS V Bate in 2004. In this case, the defendant was found in a car with the keys to the ignition in his hand. Following a positive breath test, he appeared in court with the defence that he had only been in the car to retrieving a disabled permit before ringing his wife to arrange a taxi home. Although this defence was accepted by the magistrate court, the CPS argued against this. However, the Divisional Courts argued that the police had treated the likelihood of driving as an element of the offence itself which was the wrong approach. The court argued that the defendant had been ‘in charge of the vehicle while still over the limit was only relevant if and when the defendant had raised the statutory defence. If he chose to rely on that defence, the usual considerations with regard to standards of proof would then apply.
Due to the complexity of the law and the defences behind driving whilst under the influence of drink, it is important that if you are accused of drink driving that you seek the correct and professional legal help. So, if you have been charged with driving whilst under the influence of drink, do not hesitate to contact Driving Solicitors on 07739 795 433 and get expert legal advice from a specialist motoring solicitor today.
For more information on drink diving offences please Click Here
Written by: Miriam Rhodes-Leader